THERE appears to be no limit to the injuries that Pakistan’s various bureaucracies and zoo authorities are willing to inflict on wordless creatures. Over the years, the lists of animals dead or dying, but always overwhelmingly treated in less than a satisfactory manner, has mounted so that the import of animals for the entertainment of the public has itself become questionable. It is not a matter of individuals having their heart in the right place, but of institutional capacity and coordination. Consider, for example, the fact that in the Lahore Zoo, two giraffes died within a month of each other. A trio of the beasts imported from South Africa had arrived on June 25: one of the females died just four days after arrival. Another female imported in early August died on Aug 23. According to the zoo vets, the animal that died in June had developed wounds in her mouths during transportation as well as a gastro infection, while the second giraffe had arrived in a frail condition.
The vets say they prepared a report on the second animal and submitted it to the relevant authorities, but zoo officials said that under an agreement with the supplier, no report may be issued about an animal within 30 days of its import. Further, there exists no quarantine facility for imported animals — which ought to deeply concern the Wildlife Department. While these gaps in the system remain unaddressed, the treatment of ‘exhibits’ in the facilities that house tends also to be thoroughly inhumane. Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo has lost 15 animals over the past couple of years, including an ostrich, lion cubs and nilgai, in addition to a bear just last month. Meanwhile, neglect at the Karachi Zoo also continues to cause similar losses. Running such facilities is about animals’ welfare as opposed to being a public attraction and a city landmark. Until the realisation dawns and the authorities break out of their calcification, it is better that such facilities be shut down.
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2018